- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 21, 2009

It’s time for Georgetown to call out the reserves.

The 19th-ranked Hoyas (2-0) enter the softest four-game stretch on their schedule Saturday at Savannah State (2-1) looking for improvements from a bench that has been almost nonexistent through two games.

Depth certainly wasn’t one of the team’s strong suits last season. But during a disappointing 16-15 campaign, coach John Thompson III teased a modest average of 56.0 minutes, 14.0 points and 8.1 rebounds a game out of a five-player corps of primary reserves.

Against midlevel opponents Tulane and Temple, however, Georgetown’s bench averaged just 36.0 minutes while providing only 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.

“It’s not a concern at this point, because we’re just getting started, but you definitely want to see that group develop more before we get into league play,” Thompson said. “I’m not a guy who tends to play 10 guys every game. But depending on the opponent, the flow of the game and who makes the most of those opportunities, you like to have 10 options. And while this group has a long way to go, just as the starters do, I think they’re going to get there.”

It’s already evident that redshirt freshman swingman Hollis Thompson has leapfrogged returning reserves Henry Sims and Nikita Mescheriakov as the team’s sixth man. The 6-foot-7 forward from Los Angeles enrolled at Georgetown a semester early, joining the team as a practice player for the second half of last season. A consensus top-50 recruit, Thompson has a pure shooting stroke and is a superior ballhandler, rebounder and defender to Mescheriakov. Thompson leads the reserves in average minutes played (19.0) and was the only bench contributor against Temple (two points, four rebounds, three assists).

“Hollis has had a nice start, but he’s only just scratching the surface of his potential,” Thompson said. “He’s more advanced, obviously, than any of the other freshmen because he was with us last season, so he’s been through it. He can do a lot of different things, but the bottom line is he makes shots.”

Thompson is likely to eat many of the minutes Mescheriakov earned on the wing last season, particularly if the 6-8 Belorussian continues to struggle with his jumper. Sims, as one of only three players on the roster with Big East frontcourt size, will continue to get opportunities to spell frontcourt starters Greg Monroe and Julian Vaughn. The 6-10 sophomore from Baltimore shows flashes of the talent that made him a coveted national recruit, scoring seven points and collecting four rebounds at Tulane. But Sims is still raw and inconsistent, a fact that was painfully obvious during his poor defensive performance against Temple.

The team’s two reserve wild cards are freshmen Vee Sanford and Jerrelle Benimon. Both have sparkled in practice, though the 6-7 Benimon has been slowed of late by a high ankle sprain. A 6-3 guard from Lexington, Ky., Sanford was the MVP of Georgetown’s preseason scrimmage against Virginia Tech, drawing raves from Hokies coach Seth Greenberg.

“Vee is still going through the adjustment process all freshmen face, but he’s looked really, really good in practice,” Thompson said. “Hollis is already playing quite a bit, but I think all three freshmen are going to end up playing a significant role for us.”

Expect to see that development shifted into overdrive in the next four games as the Hoyas face Savannah State (a team it beat 100-38 last season), Lafayette, Mount St. Mary’s and rebuilding American before a showdown with No. 11 Butler (2-0) on Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden.

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